Thursday, September 27, 2012

Search for "The Great Walker"

Forgive me for running the news release nearly verbatim, but I really want all of you to have the complete information. (I'll let you know when you can vote for me.)
Air New Zealand 
Launches Global Search for The Great Walker
El Segundo, CA (Sept. 25, 2012) – A global search is underway to find four adventurers to take on the challenge of a lifetime by completing all of New Zealand’s nine famous Great Walks in just nine weeks. The winners will embark on an unforgettable journey to experience New Zealand’s striking landscape – beech forests, tussock grasslands, alpine tops, green rivers, and stunning coastal views and more.
Air New Zealand’s search for The Great Walker is being run in association with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) and will see four global winners take on New Zealand’s premier DOC tracks; Abel Tasman Coast, Heaphy, Kepler, Lake Waikaremoana, Milford, Rakiura, Routeburn, Tongariro and Whanganui Journey.
The Great Walks span 550km (340 miles) of spectacular New Zealand terrain from alpine peaks to glacial valleys, native bush, rainforests and golden beaches.
Both DOC and Air New Zealand are delighted to be able share these tourism treasures with an even wider audience through this online competition which challenges keen walkers, trekkers, trampers and hikers to get creative and demonstrate why they believe they deserve to win a place on this wild adventure by uploading either a short YouTube video or a Pinterest board of inspiring images.
The four winners will fly Air New Zealand to the southern most point of the country to join the first of the nine Great Walks – Rakiura Track on Stewart Island – and then make their way north conquering one track each week for nine weeks.  As well as undertaking the Great Walks, the winners will also enjoy other Kiwi outdoor experiences including local wildlife encounters and adventure activities such as mountain biking, canyoning and jet boating.
The group will be joined along the way by Air New Zealand and DOC staff and celebrity guests.  Each winner will share their journey with the world via regular blog updates.
Air New Zealand Head of Community, James Gibson, describes the trip as a once in a lifetime experience. “New Zealand is internationally renowned for its stunning scenery and we’re thrilled to be able to offer people the chance to come and see it for themselves. Whether someone is a nature lover, has a curiosity for the great outdoors or fancies themselves as the next Bear Grylls, we want to hear from them,” says Gibson.
DOC Director Commercial Business Unit, Dave Wilks, says: “We are looking for 'Great Walkers' with the total package people with personality, creativity, a knack for blogging and story telling as well a passion for outdoor adventure. Our national parks are picturesque and sometimes wild and rugged. Entrants should be agile and have a moderate level of fitness to enjoy the variety of terrain the New Zealand wilderness offers,” says Wilks.
Entries for the Great Walker are now open at until Monday 22 October, 2012.  Entrants will then be shortlisted on the website and four winners chosen as judged by an official judging panel and by the public through the website. The Great Walkers will then travel to New Zealand in February 2013 to complete the epic Kiwi adventure of a lifetime.
For further competition details and to apply, visit
For information on DOC’s nine Great Walks, visit
For further information on Air New Zealand’s Great Walks Vacations and videos of each of the nine walks, visit

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tips for Next Year's Air Force Marathon

  • Make hotel reservations early. The close hotels fill up fast.
  • Go to the pasta dinner. The food is delicious and the speakers are usually very good. Besides, the local restaurants are typically packed.
  • If you get closed out of the pasta dinner, post a note on the Air Force Marathon Facebook page, and you might be able to get one that isn't being used.
  • The expo can be tight. Try to arrive at an off hour.
  • Arrive early to the race. There are only so many ways to get onto the base and to the starting line. Traffic can get backed up.
  • There are plenty of port-a-johns near the starting line. You can skip the long lines at the ones along the way.
  • At the start of a race, I usually try to line up according to my real pace, but in this race, you might want to go a little closer to the front than usual.
  • This race offers women's shirt sizes! In previous years, they fit perfectly -- this year it is a tiny bit too big.
  • When getting your race medal, pick a line that has a high-ranking officer.
  • You cannot re-enter the food tent after you have left. Be sure to have enough food and fluids before you exit. The LaRosa's pizza tastes great, but is usually too heavy for me. Look for the chocolate milk. It isn't always easy to find.

That's all I can think of right now.

Air Force Marathon/Half Review

The weather was beautiful for yesterday's Air Force Marathon! The temperature was about 50 when we arrived at the parking lot about 90 minutes before the start of the half marathon. The full marathon started at 7:30, the half at 8:30.

Deb, me and Elaine at the start
of the race.
As we walked to the start line, we saw this year's featured plane -- the B-2 Spirit -- fly over the full marathon starting line. It was so low! What an amazing aircraft!

For the first time I've done this race, there was a security checkpoint for non-participants to get into the viewing area. Anyone wearing a race number could walk right in -- everyone else had to go through metal detectors. I saw some people being checked with hand wands!

As we waited for the start, skydivers came out of a plane carrying three huge American flags! It was beautiful! Later we found out that the National Anthem was sung at that point, but we couldn't hear it. That is disappointing because there is something special about being on that base with all of the military personnel and hearing our National Anthem. It makes you feel so proud to be an American. (Apparently, we were between speakers. Others reported hearing everything. We must have been in a dead zone.)

We had a flyover, too, but I can't remember which plane it was. (I'm bad at that.) Though it was great, I would have liked to see the B-2 again.

With the shot of a cannon, the race started!

The crowd was thick as we inched our way to the starting line. It took more than 6 minutes! We had lined up at our pace, but there were tons of faster runners behind us, and even more slower walkers in front of us. Somehow I missed the first mile marker, but at mile 2 our pace was 28:43. 

Around mile 2 the sun was pretty high and I finally tossed my jacket. I have taken that jacket to several races to toss, and it finally was not coming back home with me.

In this first couple mile thickness we heard this weird rubber duck squeaking and thought it was an obnoxious runner. Nope! It was a man pushing a jogging stroller with a person in it! The duck was telling us to get out of the way! We also heard people yelling "Make a hole!" but I wasn't thinking, and it took us a second to figure out we were to get out of the way. I'm not sure who was in the stroller, because there were two people with disabilities -- one person was pushing his brother and I think the other was pushing his daughter. I read reports from other athletes that said the brother had a wonderful time.

This year's half marathon course was changed. In previous years, there were a couple spots where the full and half marathoners merged and it was crazy. The new course prevented that problem, which is good news! Unfortunately, the new half marathon course is slightly less pretty. I can't remember specific spots where it changed, but it was different.

I felt pretty good -- OK, I felt GREAT -- so I tried to pick up my pace very early in the race. Elaine had set a mental goal of around 2:55, and I was hoping we could meet that goal. Unfortunately, I didn't figure out a per mile pace before that, so I was just guessing that we needed to be close to a 13:00 per minute mile. (My fastest mile was only 13:17, so I thought I had no shot at it.) Most miles I was around 13:30.

Early on there was some confusion. We were told to stay to the left, but when the crowd moved over, there were fast runners coming straight at us, so we stayed to the right. Then after about a mile we all moved to the left and the runners were on the right coming at us...

At about mile 5, I was ahead of Elaine and Deb, and finally caught up with a woman who was this race's "rabbit" for me. We started chatting, and she was so nice! Linda walks a 12-min mile 5K, but tries to stay at 14 for a half. (She had been faster than that this race!) She let me pull her along and we walked together until about mile 10 when we made a pit stop. I must not have looked around very well, because Elaine later reported that Linda was right behind me, but couldn't catch me.
Me and Linda after the race,
with her friend's finger at the top.
It is hard to take a photo with
an iPod when it is sunny.

Late in the race there were signs with "rules" leading up to the water stop -- Rule 1: Cardio, Rule 2: Double Tap, Rule 18: Limber Up... Yes, it was Zombieland! The zombies were amazing! My iPod was not charged enough, so I didn't take photos. Though there are plenty of water stops, it seemed as if a couple of them did not have enough volunteers. It was tight getting water and the volunteers were moving as fast as they could. They did a great job with not enough people!

This course is a little bit hilly, but I didn't really notice how hilly until near the end when I had slowed on a steep one. Near the top I came up to a wheelchair athlete struggling. He was near the peak, but had to stop. I will never complain about another hilly course -- walking up that hill was so much easier than what he was doing.

There were so many walkers in this half marathon, I couldn't believe it! I never got to the front of all of the walkers! I'm confident I walked much farther than 13.1 just because I had to weave in and out of people the entire course. This also made me think that there were many, many walkers who lined up too close to the front.

The finish line of this race is the best ever! You turn the corner by the Air Force Museum and you walk under the wings of all of those antique planes! It is amazing! Then you get your medal from an officer! (I know nothing about rank, so I can't tell you.)

Approaching the right-hand turn to the finish line.
One of the many planes you walk under.

According to my watch, my finish time was 3:00:09 -- my chip time was 5 seconds faster at 3:00:04. I waited for Elaine then we went to the food tent. The volunteers were wonderful handing us water bananas and Gatorade. I grabbed pieces of bagel and a small piece of LaRosa's pizza and we were out, sitting on the ground waiting for Deb. The tent is well organized and guarantees you will not go back for seconds so there is plenty of food for those who finish later. 

Though not as pretty as previous years, and though there were some glitches, this is still one of my favorite races! I will continue to enter the half marathon every year or so as long as I'm able!
The gray shirt had blue insets on the sides. The wicking fabric is light and
comfortable. The front is the same every year, but the back highlights that year's plane.
The same design is on the medal.
Pace per mile:
mile 2  28:43
mile 3  13:52
mile 4  13:56
mile 5  13:31
mile 6  13:26
mile 7  13:27
mile 8 13:34
mile 9 13:40
mile 10 14:07* pit stop
mile 11 13:17
mile 12 13:17
mile 13 13:58* stopped to take pictures

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Beautiful Morning Miles

I missed yesterday's training walk with the Buckeye Striders because of rain. I know that seems funny considering I walked in rain last weekend, but there is a difference. This week it was pouring before we started -- last week it started raining after we were already out walking. Though I know I need to train in all weather, it was the right decision because today was absolutely beautiful!

The sun was shining and the temps were in the mid-50s when Deb and I met at 7:30 at Sharon Woods to do 6 miles.

It was chilly enough that I wore a light jacket and Deb had on long sleeves. I made the better decision because I took my jacket off after a couple of miles, but Deb was stuck.

We were supposed to do "easy" miles, and we did until we started to pass another walker and we all started talking. I don't know why, but we went from 14:30 per mile to a 14:07 mile! (It was fun meeting Jan. I hope we run into her again!)

This is our taper week leading up to the Air Force Half Marathon next weekend. I always enjoy the shorter mileage days leading up to and following a long-distance race. They feel so easy and it seems as if I have so much more time on the weekend!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Surprisingly Fast

Today the plan was to simply do three laps at Antrim Park.

After the first lap, my heart rate was barely over 100 bpm and I did not feel as if I was working very hard. I picked up the pace while trying to maintain a somewhat realistic racewalking form.

My heart rate eventually got up to the mid-140s and I did my best to keep it there for the rest of the workout. Though the pace was not difficult, I was breathing and a real conversation would not have been possible. At the same time, it did not feel overly difficult. I could have gone faster and I could have maintained the pace for a while. I pushed hard to the finish. This might have been race pace.

When I finished, I was pleasantly surprised to see my average pace was 13:44 and my fastest was 13:05 per mile! Just a little slower that what I will need to do in order to break my last PR of 2:55 for a half marathon.

This is good news considering my training this year is off!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Singing in the Rain

It was very humid and overcast today as several of the Buckeye Striders met at 7:00 Saturday morning to do our long mileage on the Olentangy Trail. For three of us, this is our last long day before the Air Force Half Marathon in two weeks. (Everyone else is training for Columbus, already.) That meant we were doing 10 miles while everyone else was doing 8.

Though I was a little bit worried about rain, I was more concerned the sun would come out and it would be even more steamy. (It rained early and there were lots of puddles.)

We were at a pretty slow pace -- about a 15-min mile. None of us who are doing Air Force have been training as well as we should, so a slow pace in the humidity made sense.

There were a ton of marathon training groups on the trail! The vast majority of the athletes in these groups are polite and friendly. I get excited seeing so many people out there in the early morning being active! I love marathon training season.
Deb sat in her car to take this picture of me in
the pouring rain. (I didn't want my iPod to get wet.)

At around 7 miles, Deb started singing to help her keep pace. She started with She'll be Coming Round the Mountain and progressed to It's Hip to be Square.

Then at about 8 miles the skies opened up and it began to pour! It came on suddenly and within seconds we were soaked! We tried to stay to the side of the trail where the trees blocked the rain a little, but it ended up not making much difference. My new pair of Altras were soggy pretty fast and my feet were sloshing. I hate wet socks! The funny thing is, it was so warm and humid, the rain was warm and not at all refreshing.

It was at about this time that Deb and Elaine started to belt out Singing in the Rain. You gotta love them!

I did try to get them to pick up the pace to get out of the rain faster, but because they both did a half marathon (for training) last weekend, they just couldn't.

We got back to our cars looking like drowned rats. Unfortunately, two of us did not have towels in our cars -- I was one! My car seats were soaked!

Friday, my thought was that I would not do the miles if it was raining. (One of my Facebook fans convinced me that was a bad idea.) But it wasn't bad! I forgot how much fun it can be to walk in the rain in the summer.